House endorses tobacco harm reduction

The House of Representatives unanimously adopted a resolution urging the Department of Health to promote harm reduction measures as part of its National Tobacco Control Strategy, especially the use of electronic cigarettes or vapes as a less harmful alternative for smokers.

Co-authored by Coop-Nattco Party-list Rep. Anthony Bravo and North Cotabato 3rd District Rep. Jose Tejada, House Resolution No. 1885 cited the World Health Organization’s observation that in the U.K., where strict tobacco control measures are in place and electronic nicotine delivery systems (which include e-cigarettes) are becoming more popular, smoking prevalence, cigarette consumption and overall nicotine use appear to be gradually decreasing. 

It referenced results of independent studies by Public Health England and Cancer Research UK, which showed that since e-cigarettes were introduced in the U.K. smoking prevalence among adults and the youth have declined, confirming that e-cigarettes do not serve as a gateway to smoking.

“By unanimously adopting the resolution, the House of Representatives is sending a strong message to the DOH to abandon its misguided belief that ‘quit or die’ are smokers’ only choices and instead follow the lead of the United Kingdom and other countries that have adopted harm reduction as part of their tobacco control strategies,” said Joey Dulay, president of the Philippine E-Cigarette Industry Association.

“We thank our legislators for keeping an open mind to the growing body of scientific evidence supporting e-cigarettes as a significantly less harmful alternative to conventional cigarettes. We urge the DOH to do the same and help save lives,” said Peter Paul Dator, president of The Vapers Philippines.

The resolution quoted PHE National Director Prof. Kevin Fenton as saying that “the evidence is clear that vaping is much less harmful than smoking and that e-cigarettes are helping many smokers to quit…Different approaches will be appropriate in different places, but policies should take account of the evidence and clearly distinguish vaping from smoking.”

It highlighted the recommendation of Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos, a leading researcher and expert on tobacco harm reduction and e-cigarettes, urging the Philippine government to create a regulatory framework for e-cigarettes that is reasonable, proportionate, and realistic. 

“It must be different from regulation of tobacco cigarettes; otherwise, people may be deceived into thinking that e-cigarettes are the same as tobacco cigarettes,” Farsalinos said.

The resolution underscored Farsalinos’ comment that an appropriate e-cigarette regulatory framework would be important to ensure product quality; promote harm reduction products only to intended populations (i.e. smokers and former smokers); maintain a competitive advantage for harm reduction products compared to smoking (price, availability, accessibility); and promote research to monitor population use and develop better (and even safer) products. 

It echoed the U.K. Royal College of Physicians recommendation to make e-cigarettes a more attractive, available and affordable option for smokers than cigarettes; to prevent, as far as possible, nicotine use by never-smokers, particularly children; and to make tobacco products as unappealing as possible.

The resolution also cited a study by the Harvard School of Public Health and University of Massachusetts, which concluded that nicotine replacement therapy such as patches and gums do not help smokers quit smoking, and quoted one of the study authors who said the “study shows that NRT is no more effective in helping people stop smoking in the long term than trying to quit on one’s own [quitting ‘cold turkey’].”

Topics: House of Representatives , Department of Health , tobacco harm reduction , National Tobacco Control Strategy , electronic cigarettes , vapes
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